CAN A POPE “EXCOMMUNICATES” HIMSELF BY THE “SIN OF HERESY”? Responding to Fr. Kramer.



Fr. Paul Kramer
       Fr. Paul Leonard Kramer continues to cause confusion among certain Catholics who are already far too confused by the situation in the Church.  Kramer is now claiming that a Pope who commits the sin of heresy “excommunicates himself,” because he no longer has the faith.  The following is from Kramer Facebook page:

Fr. Kramer: “Any Catholic, be he pope or pauper, excommunicates himself by the sin of heresy, because such a one no longer has the Catholic Faith. With or vwithout (sic) the law, the heretic by the very nature of the sin of heresy ceases to be a Catholic and is incapable of holding office. Bellarmine explains this in De Romano Pontifice.”

       As we have already demonstrated in many of our ten feature articles against Fr. Kramer in the last month, Bellarmine says no such thing (we have also shown how Kramer misunderstands what Bellarmine does say). And this, of course, is why Kramer did not provide any quotations from Bellarmine to back up his claim. Kramer continued:

“By the act itself, the heretic, apostate or schismatic inflicts the penalty of excommunication upon himself. This has always been the case, and remains so under the 1983 Code. … Salza’s explanation on excommunication reveals a profound ignorance of the subject matter.  There is not a canonist in the entire worled who agrees with his eccentric interpretation of Canon Law on excommunication. During the years I spent in Rome, I read my works of diverse authors on Canon Law and spoke with a good number of professors of Canon Law.  They all knew perfectly well what excommunication latae sentenciae means – only Salza and Siscoe do not”.

       
       If Fr. Kramer had actually read the book before launching his attack against it on his Facebook page, he would have found that TOFP defines excommunication precisely the same way the sources he cites explain and define it.  In fact, we cite some of the exact same authorities he does, including the one he cited immediately after the above citation. 
       So what is Kramer’s error? He evidently does not know that A POPE CANNOT INCUR THE CANONICAL PENALTY OF EXCOMMUNICATION!   
Screen shot from Kramer's Facebook post
       What Fr. Kramer, quite doesn’t realize is that excommunication (whether latae or ferendae sententiae) is part of the Church’s positive law, and the positive law of the Church does not have coercive power over the Pope in the ecclesiastical forum. 
       In his lengthy treatise on the loss of office for a heretical Pope, Cajetan explained this very point and noted that the doctors carried this point so far that, according to St. Thomas, a Pope could not even confer on another the power to excommunicate him. In Cajetan’s own words:

Every excommunication, which is an ecclesiastical censure (and that is our subject), is based on positive law, which does not have coercive power over the Pope in the ecclesiastical forum; whereas excommunication implies coercion in the ecclesiastical forum, we must conclude that the Pope cannot incur any censure. The doctors carry this point so far that St. Thomas says that the Pope cannot confer upon anyone the power to excommunicate him. Albert the Great and Saint Bonaventure are of the same opinion, as Lord Juan de Torquemada reports of them.”[1]

Screenshot from Kramer's Facebook post
       So, all of the citations Kramer quoted in an attempt to impress his Facebook followers do not apply to a Pope. In fact, even Fr. Cekada realizes this point. For example, in response to an article written by Thomas Sparks which properly highlighted that a Pope cannot incur excommunication, Fr. Cekada
 conceded the point. He wrote:

From Cekada's article
“The material Mr. Sparks quotes deals with heresy as a delictum and with the ecclesiastical censure (excommunication) that the heretic incurs. This is mostly irrelevant to the case of a heretical pope. Because he is the supreme legislator and therefore not subject to canon law, a pope
 cannot commit a true delictum of heresy
 or incur an excommunication.”

       
       As we explain in "True or False Pope?" the excommunication of the former pope follows the Church establishing the crime of heresy and declaring the See vacant.  Only then is he subject to the punishment of excommunication.
       




[1] De Comparatione Auctoritatis Papae et Concilii,  ch XXII.

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